BY COMMON CONSENT
VOLUME 7, NO. 2 March 2001
The hundred temples and the Conference Center are history, and the Olympics are definitely not the Mo-lympics (at least officially), so what will April conference bring?
The semi-annual conference critique will explore trends and topics that emerge from April conference on Monday, April 2, 2000, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the main library downtown (209 E. 500 South). We will be gathering in the study room just east of the second floor meeting room--the usual site. Janice Allred will lead this freewheeling and insightful exchange.
The best parking is on the south and east sides of the block and across the street on the City-County Building block.
An enthusiastic gathering, obviously well into the topic, joined Becky Johns at the January 2001 Mormon Alliance meeting for her analysis of the rhetoric of some of President Hinckley's public statements over the past decade or so. A faculty member at Weber State University, Becky set a careful context for the analysis with (1) a definition of rhetoric (communications designed for a particular audience), (2) analogies drawn from the movie What Women Want to make her point that the message frequently becomes the medium and that the message is marketing, and (3) a list of ten types of bad rhetoric, by which she meant false ways of arguing.
Some of these ten types are a double standard (so that one person or group is held to a different standard than another), selective sample (generalizing on the basis of only one example or few), limited alternatives (insisting on only two options), repetition (which Becky pointed out can also be a good communication technique), labeling and stereotyping, creating straw-man arguments (which lets the person, under guise of summarizing his/her opponent's argument, phrase it as either more extreme or weaker than it actually is and thus determine what his/her argument is), begging the question (building what is actually part of the question to be proved into the answer by assuming that it's already proved), trivializing the argument with a language trick to distract, overliteralize, or make a joke out of a serious argument, irrelevant argumentation (restating the question so that you change the subject, introduce a red herring, or draw a false analogy), bandwagon thinking ("everybody is doing it"), and relying on authority in an area where the speaker does not have expertise.
Becky identified twenty-five texts that she had looked at in performing her analysis, including conference talks, interviews with the press for which the complete transcripts were publicly available, fireside address, conference addresses, his biography by Sheri Dew, his recently published book, Standing for Something, and the press kit created for his ninetieth birthday. She focused primarily on two areas for her analysis: doctrinal issues and social issues. She had prepared handouts quoting from several major interviews on three doctrinal topics: polygamy, eternal progress, and continuing revelation, so most of the discussion focused on these texts.
Stressing that the goal was to "understand,"—not to denigrate or diminish, Becky praised President Hinckley's many examples of good rhetoric—"well-answered questions, forthright statements, stories that explain principles. He is a wonderful communicator. No wonder everybody loves him. I love him. What's not to love? He's like a loving, wise, funny grandfather and he's telling us to be good people and to do better."
However, his messages also contain examples of "bad" rhetoric, or inadequate and distorting techniques. She led the group through his responses to Larry King and Mike Wallace when the question of polygamy came up. President Hinckley's strategy was to distance the Church from polygamy ("There are actually no Mormon fundamentalists. These people are not members.") thus presenting an either/or dichotomy. This strategy lets him sidestep problems of history, the question of whether we still accept polygamy as a doctrine, and the fact that there are still many people with membership in the Church (they haven't all been excommunicated as he claims) who are also believers in and practitioners of polygamy. The actual relationship between the Church and contemporary polygamy is not a clear-cut either/or but a more tangled and complex relationship.
An even more complex problem is that of the doctrine of eternal progression or "the couplet question." President Hinckley speaking in conference in 1994, talked about the human potential of achieving Godhood as "the whole design of the gospel," correctly attributing this doctrine to Joseph Smith's King Follett's funeral sermon. However, by 1997, when asked by the San Francisco Chronicle, "Don't Mormons believe that God was once a man?" he responded, "I wouldn't say that. There was a little couplet coined, "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.' Now that's more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don't know very much about." He then affirmed that Mormons "believe in eternal progression" and introduced a red herring by saying that ‘we stress education," thus equating the two. That same year, he told Time magazine reporter Richard Ostling, "I haven't heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse," despite his own public statement three years earlier. "I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it . . . I don't know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don't know a lot about it."
This minimizing of what is Mormonism's central doctrine on the nature of humankind was naturally "very troubling" for members of the Church, leading to President Hinckley's reassurance to Mormons at general conference that he had been "incompletely reported. You need not worry that I do not understand some matters of doctrine." When queried about the accuracy of the Time statement, the secretary to the First Presidency responded that the quotation "was taken out of context." Irritated by this challenge to his journalistic accuracy, Ostling published the complete transcript of his interview with Hinckley on that question as a footnote in his Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (1999) showing that he had quoted President Hinckley completely and accurately.
Becky returned to this point in her concluding comments, pointing out: "I don't know any Mormon aware of this statement who isn't also troubled by it. It's one of the most startling doctrinal statements made in my lifetime but without saying that it's a change. The implications are stupefying. It seems that the Church President is saying that we don't believe something that we've always been taught we do believe. How are we supposed to process this?"
On the topic of continuing revelation, Becky showed by quotations from interviews with Mike Wallace, Larry King, and the San Jose Mercury plus a BYU/CES fireside in March 1994 that President Hinckley typically responds in the same way to questions about what it means to be a prophet and how revelation comes. He affirms that he is "sustained" as a prophet but then sidesteps the question with the statement that "we don't need more revelation ... We just need to follow more closely the revelation we've already received."
One participant comments, "We're building our entire missionary program on the fact that we have a living prophet who receives revelation from God and the prophet himself is saying we don't need more revelation?" Becky agreed: "It's a pretty bald and pretty disturbing statement. It made me think of 2 Nephi 28:29: ‘Woe be unto him that shall say: we have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough.'"
In less detail, Becky identified President Hinckley's approach to four "people" issues. First, when the question of blacks and priesthood comes up, he typically creates an either/or dichotomy ("that was then, this is now") and uses a selective sample (citing the affection and respect he received during his tour of Africa).
Second, when questioned on the place of women, he typically asserts that women have an important place in the Church (the Relief Society) and that, with possibly a few exceptions, women are happy ("my wife is happy").
Third, queried about dissidents, he typically minimizes the problem (they're a little "blip" among thousands of converts) and appeals to the bandwagon (thousands joined the Church the same month five were excommunicated), thus sidestepping the question about whether the dissidents’ points of disagreement had merit and also countering his own general conference statements about the importance and worth of each individual.
Fourth, when asked about the place of homosexuals in the Church, he typically affirms that "we love homosexuals" but that they must be held to the same standard as other members --which, given the Church's stress on marriage and its opposition to same-sex marriage--is not possible.
Becky stressed at several points during the evening that it was not possible to determine President Hinckley's motives through rhetorical analysis and that the purpose of such analysis was to understand what he was actually saying in the texts that were publicly available. Audience members, however, identified several possible motivations, including the influence of Edelman Public Relations, a New York firm that the Church hired during President Benson's illness; President Hinckley's personal history of living through a period of negative and largely unfair press coverage of Mormonism; the reality that interviewers are after soundbites ("reporters want to talk about God being a man; President Hinckley wants to talk about men becoming Gods"), not well-contextualized and carefully explained complex answers to apparently simple questions; the non-sinister reality that we all shape our messages to our various audiences; and President Hinckley's pragmatism and obvious success with this approach.
Even acknowledging these mitigating factors, several participants expressed concern. "So we can now do PR the way the world does it," commented one. "Does that mean we think the way the world does it is okay?" Another said, "It's good to be affable, folksy, and warm; but has President Hinckley's personality become the message of Mormonism? Political candidates market their personalities instead of their platforms, but who respects a political campaign?" Still another questioned the point at which growth for growth's sake becomes its own justification. And another, quoting a friend's rationalization that "the world's not ready for the truth," queried, "But the members of the Church are being treated the same way. Does that mean we're not ready for the truth?"
"These are significant issues," summarized Becky. "And the rhetorical strategies for dealing with them are not adequate. The obfuscation introduced into the doctrinal issues is very troubling. But it's not an either/or situation here. We can understand that it's appropriate for President Hinckley to make the decisions that he's making, but it's also appropriate for us to make note of what he's doing, to identify the rhetorical strategies, and to point out that this rhetoric is not adequate to our needs."
A two-cassette recording of this meeting is available from Steven Mayfield, 1640 N. 400 West Apt. 1-S, Layton, UT 84041, (801) 773-8914. The price of $5 per cassette ($10 total) includes shipping. Request a listing and order form of other recorded events including Sterling McMurrin's funeral service, all Mormon Alliance programs, and radio talk shows in Salt Lake City featuring a Mormon topic.
A NEW VIEW OF OUR SCRIPTURES
At least four early copies of our Articles of Faith have fourteen (not thirteen) articles. Two of these copies appear in books by far-from-casual visitors to the Mormons. The first visitor was Lieutenant John W. Gunnison, a government surveyor-cartographer working on a U.S. survey of the western United States. He did a beautiful, careful (generally complimentary) review of Mormon beliefs and actions in The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, & Co., 1852). In it appears a fourteen-article version of the Articles of Faith (p. 39), which he copied from the Frontier Guardian, a Mormon paper published in 1849-51 at Kanesville, Iowa. The editor was Orson Hyde, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve (i.e., a pretty reliable source). (See Appendix for the Hyde/Gunnison fourteen-article version. I have added numbers corresponding to our current thirteen-article version in brackets. The "fourteenth" article--on the resurrection--appears between 10 and 11.)
This fourteen-article version apparently was the work of James H. Flanigan who, according to BYU archivist David J. Whittaker, included his own list of fourteen articles in a pamphlet he published in April 1849 in England. Charles MacKay picked up the list for his own popular book with nearly the same title as Gunnison's: The Mormons; or the Latter-day Saints (London, 1851, 46-47) (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, s.v, "Articles of Faith"). Mackay's book went through five printings between June 1851 and 1857.
The second visitor was Sir Richard Burton, a famous British anthropologist-author and translator of the Arabian Nights. (His wife burned all his exotic--and erotic--poetry after his death.) He collected an encyclopedic amount of information about Mormons and Salt Lake City, which he published in City of the Saints, and Across the Rocky Mountains to California (London: Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1861). He also published a fourteen-article version; but commented that an earlier version had a "last sentence" which his did not.
Wilford Wood, a mid-twentieth century Mormon from Bountiful, Utah, and one of the earliest systematic collectors of Mormon memorabilia published Joseph Smith Begins His Work, 2 vols. (n.p.: Wilford Wood, 1956), which are photo-mechanical reproductions of the first editions of the Book of Mormon, Book of Commandments, and Doctrine and Covenants. However, he also included a printed copy of the fourteen articles of faith signed by Joseph Smith. He stated that there were six or seven copies in existence of this particular document but did not, unfortunately, give any more details about his source.
How did we end up with the thirteen-article version? Simple. It's the first and most famous version. The thirteen appear in the letter, attributed to Joseph Smith, written to John Wentworth, publisher of the Chicago Democrat. The original letter apparently no longer exists, but it was published in the Times and Seasons, 1 March 1842 (see HC 4:540-41). That letter's version of the Articles of Faith was printed in the Pearl of Great Price, first published as a pamphlet in the British Mission by Franklin D. Richards in 1851, revised in 1878 and 1880, and canonized in 1880. In the late 1890s, James E. Talmage, a geology professor and future (1911) apostle, gave a series of lectures about the thirteen articles and, in 1899, published an expanded version of his lectures in his book Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing, 1899). He does not give his source and does not mention the fourteen-article version. Our current (1981) Articles of Faith contain some minor editing changes from the previous scriptural edition.
Although the numerous differences between the Articles of Faith every Primary child memorizes and the fourteen-article version are all interesting, I am most excited by the different wording in Article 8, since it has important ramifications for our view of scripture.
The Hyde/Gunnison version reads: "We believe in the word of God contained in the Bible, we also believe the word of God recorded in the Book of Mormon, and in all other good books." Using this version, the admonition to "study the scriptures" takes on new meaning, for careful evaluation is mandatory as we dig out the things which qualify as the "word" of God (i.e., of divine origin), not only in the Bible and Book of Mormon, but in other good books-- even those without Church imprimatur.
Such an approach is more necessary now than ever. Annually, we devote no more than forty-eight classes of no more than forty-five minutes each in Sunday School to the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. Anyone who relies only on this "auxiliary" for scriptural knowledge is, in my opinion, whizzing through the scriptures with sublime recklessness and criminal selectivity.
Brother Brigham got it right when he said: "I would advise you to read books that are worth reading; read reliable history, and search wisdom out of the best books you can procure. "Shall I sit down and read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants all the time?" says one. Yes, if you please, and when you have done, you may be nothing but a sectarian after all. It is your duty to study to know everything upon the face of the earth in addition to reading those books. We should not only study good, and its effects upon our race, but also evil, and its consequences" (Discourses of Brigham Young, 256-57).
LATTER-DAY SAINTS' FAITH
 We believe in God the eternal Father, and his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgressions.
 We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
 We believe that these ordinances are—1st. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: 2d. Repentance; 3d. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins: 4th. Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit; 5th. The Lord's Supper.
 We believe that men must be called of God by inspiration, and by laying on of hands from those who are duly commissioned to preach the Gospel, and administer in the ordinances thereof.
 We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, viz: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, &c.
 We believe in the powers and gifts of the everlasting gospel, viz: the gift of faith, discerning of spirits, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, wisdom, charity, brotherly love, &c.
 We believe the word of God recorded in the Bible, we also believe the word of God recorded in the Book of Mormon, and in all other good books.
 We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will reveal very many more great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God and Messiah's second coming.
 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel, and in the restoration of the ten tribes, that Zion will be established upon the western continent, that Christ will reign personally upon the earth a thousand years, and that the earth will be renewed, and receive its paradisiacal glory.
[addition] We believe in the literal resurrection of the body, and that the rest of the dead live not again until the thousand years are expired.
 We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, unmolested, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how or where they may.
 We believe in being subject to kings, queens, presidents, rulers, and magistrates; in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, temperate, benevolent, virtuous, and upright, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul, we "believe all things," we "hope all things," we have endured very many things, and hope to be able to "endure all things." Every thing lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report, we seek after, looking forward "to the recompense of reward." But an idle or lazy person cannot be a Christian, neither have salvation. He is a drone, and destined to be stung to death and tumbled out of the hive. --John W. Gunnison, The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, & Co., 1852), 39-40.
REMINISCENCE OF A TRANSITION
Louis N. Jones
Friday, February 11, 2000
Today, at 5:20 p.m., my mother traded her mortal cares for God's divine care. Although her last several years were difficult because of her physical decline, her transition was surprisingly peaceful, even uplifting.
After her third hospital admission this winter, she began sinking rapidly the night of February 8. Those children living in the far corners of the country were warned that she would probably last only a few more days. I was the last to arrive, only five hours before her final transition.
This was my first experience of being present at someone's passing; and contrary to my expectations, it was a profoundly uplifting spiritual event. Credit for this goes not just to the family members who kept vigil the last few days, but also to the "others" who touched our lives while we filled that little hospital room.
First, the staff of the Labette County Medical Center put absolutely no restrictions on visitation. Family members and friends were allowed to be--and were--present every minute of those final days. Furthermore, the number of visitors was limited only by the space available in the room.
This was especially remarkable because Mom's room was semiprivate, and the second bed was occupied the whole time. The other patient could have complained about the disturbance, but did not. In fact, this lady, a self-proclaimed psychic, spoke with Mom while she was still able to speak, and told her that Joseph and several other saints (identified by name) were waiting to escort her home. At other times she cried, prayed, and sang hymns with the family.
During the last two days, we poured out our love to Mom, gave her permission to leave whenever she was ready, read scriptures, and sang her favorite hymns. She stopped breathing during "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and all vital signs ceased about two minutes later. Her face immediately assumed a cast of total serenity, the wrinkles of pain and distress disappeared, and her skin smoothed out like that of a woman in her forties.
Moments later, the other patient came from behind her curtain, fully dressed, and carrying her personal articles. One of my sisters asked if she was checking out. She answered, "Yes, my work here is done."
Speaking for myself, but also, I believe, for the other family members and friends who were there in the last hour, the love and sense of God's presence were so strong it seemed that the walls of that hospital room might blow out at any moment. Thus, an experience that most of us (and that once included me) would list among the unhappiest, most tragic of our lives, became an unforgettably uplifting spiritual experience, one that raised my awareness of God and his love to a brand-new level. In the future, it will not be my duty, but my privilege, to share a loved one's passing.
Rest in peace, Frances Helen Glendenning Jones, beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother. October 15, 1910-February 11, 2000
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